I am often asked what is it that I do that results in the programmers with whom I interact being so productive; what is it I do to get them motivated and to keep them motivated; and where can I find / who is the World’s Best Programmer.
My answer is many fold and I provide a framework towards greater understanding in part 1.
The path to the motivated programmer, the happy programmer, is unique to each individual. There are, however, some general, instructional guides towards better understanding for all involved parties, and especially regarding those conditions that make for that highly motivated programmer.
Today, let’s take a deeper look at Communication.
You can’t get anything accomplished without good Communication. Everyone, from CEO to manager to the World’s Best Programmer, knows that. Many different professions and skill-sets come with their own special keywords, languages, and manners. Sometimes this difference could not be more obvious than when it is demonstrated between manager and programmer, even within the environment of World’s Best Programmer.
Inadequate or poor Communication leads to a programming environment characterized by …
These conditions, like a disease, will demotivate and crush the spirit and productivity of any programmer, from the good to even the World’s Best; and, like a disease, can fester and eat away at the core of any product, team, and organization. And, as is the nature of this illness, it is harder to correct once it takes root, since discovery would entail having good Communication.
An open environment wherein people are comfortable expressing their thoughts, where they don’t feel ignored, is where the World’s Best Programmer is found. And, by open, I am not referring to an environment defined by shouting, or disorder. It is a structured environment, where teamwork flourishes, and authority is respected on par with the feedback, ideas, and other issues brought up and discussed, regardless of ‘rank.’ It is an environment within which the programmer is comfortable questioning, and suggesting alternatives, all the while expecting that his thought s will be respected. While they need not be accepted, they are at least considered.
Some exemplary steps and practices that can lead to this motivational, empowering environment are…
Passion. Having passion in one’s work is very important and can be very constructive for many individuals — nurturing friendly, healthy competition in many. However, passion should be carefully targeted in both good and bad situations. When passions are appropriately checked, when tone is stern, not angry, care taken for understanding technical complexities, fear and unease are reduced, or eliminated, enabling all to speak-out about problems before they get worse (or it is too late).
Leave. For some managers it is reflexive to just ‘let the programmers be.’ Such behavior is often the result of the discomfort associated with finding a common language and grasping necessary programmer concepts. For others, this behavior may come from the flawed logic that to ‘let the programmers be,’ steering clear of them, minimizing the Communication is a sign of trust and respect.
Simply put, for managers of this sentiment, leave your office; interact. Interaction breeds teamwork and understanding. Present an environment where business meetings are equally important as those meetings with programmers, always working towards establishing and enhancing community and commonality.
For example, perhaps once a day outside of the normal meetings or, perhaps on recurring dates and times (see Focus for more information), briefly walk around observing, learning, and Communicating.
Interest. It is important to not feign interest in the issues of programmers. Furthermore, as a manager of programmers, don’t simulate knowledge of programming topics and challenges – as is the inclination for too many.
When items are discussed with programmers, follow-up; if you don’t understand something, ask questions. Be patient, as it may be difficult to convey some concepts; but, through the demonstration of valuing the programmers’ thoughts, opinions, and insights, each individual will better understand the starting points of understanding for the respective parties and allow for the converging of minds.
Through the simple practice of demonstrating that you value the opinions of the programmers, through action demonstrating your interest in feedback from programmers, by following-up and being accessible (not forcing people to have to leave their programmer to ‘chase you down’) Communication is improved – paving the way for an ever greater number of open and frank conversations.
Squash any ethos of secrecy, demonstrate trust through inclusion and open Communication, and, in turn, you will provide the motivational drivers to propel your programmers to succeed, within which environment, too, can be found the World’s Best Programmer.
The Search Continues
In addition to…
… and before this individual, World’s Best Programmer, is announced, the characteristics…
… will be further explored and discussed in the subsequent articles of this multi-part series.
Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series highlighting many of the key driver’s of your team’s motivated programmers, nor the denouement of World’s Best Programmer, as well as other insightful posts from The Product Guy.
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